While there truly is an exact science as to why the leaves on trees change colors in the autumn, there is no exact science to plan an outing to witness the glorious fall foliage at its peak performance. With some guidance and a predetermined plan, your family can be in the middle of a beautiful vista painted with the Mother Nature’s colors in no time.
The good news? The peak weeks for viewing the vibrant foliage are coming up in the middle of October.
More good news? We have compiled a list of accessible, easy-to-get-to drives and hikes to take in the colors of the fall. First, check out this Fall Foliage Prediction Map to ensure you are viewing the trees in all their splendor at the optimal time. Then simply pick a destination, pack a picnic and go! Oh, and don’t forget the kids…
Bowman’s Hill Tower, Bucks County
If, like me, you have never heard of this tower tucked away in Washington Crossing Park, Bucks County, now is the time to discover it. Thought to have been built to commemorate General George Washington’s lookout point from where he crossed the Delaware River, this 14-mile view offers the perfect vantage point to overlook the vast foliage surrounding the tower. Shortly after construction was completed in 1931, workers planted 28,300 seedlings to reforest the hill. The fruits of their labor is ours to enjoy this October.
Ralph Stover State Park, Bucks County
Another Buck’s county hidden treasure-trove for fall foliage viewing is at the High Rocks section of this 45-acre state park.This spectacular perch provides the perfect vantage point high above Tohickon Creek; it is easy to access from a 1-mile hiking trail. There are also plenty of picnic spots within the park so your family can sit under the canopy of colors, or, for the more adventurous, kayak on the creek to experience a different opportunity to view the changing trees.
Route 32, Bucks County
Looking for a good old-fashioned Sunday drive? This route in Bucks County is the ideal way to see the fall foliage from the comforts of your car, and you don’t have to go far to achieve your goal…The recommended route traverses from Kintersville to New Hope, winding along the Delaware River against a backdrop of tree-covered hillsides. If you want to stretch your legs with a few planned stops, you can see waterfalls, covered bridges, and the curious Ringing Rocks County Park.
Wissahickon Gorge, Philadelphia
Chances are you have driven by this vast park without realizing the secret offerings concealed within. Officially called the Wissahickon Valley Park, these historic grounds offer 50 miles of hiking trails, hidden statues, and even a covered bridge – a perfect picture-taking spot!
Autumn is the ideal time to discover the Gorge, located inside the Philadelphia city limits. Hike it or bike it, but don’t miss the changing of the leaves from our very own city.
Forbidden Drive Trail, Montgomery County
Another part of the extensive Wissahickon Valley Park system is this 5.4 mile trail that runs parallel to a section of the Wissahickon Creek. Originally built as a turnpike in the mid-1800s, this stretch of road was renamed Forbidden Drive in 1920 when vehicles were no longer allowed to travel on it. Since then, it is a multi-season, multi-use trail: walking, hiking, horseback riding and biking. October is looking to be the natural month to discover this forbidden path which will be showcasing nature’s colorful fall palette.
Governor Dick Observation Tower, Lebanon County
A little over an hour drive from the Western suburbs, this rewarding view is worth it. Once you arrive at The Park at Governor Dick, there is a 3-mile roundtrip hike to the tower. Here is where is gets tricky. The circumference of the structure is only 15 feet, eliminating the space for stairs. Instead, there are ladders built to climb to the top of the 66 foot tower. Should you embark on this endeavor, you will be met with a breathtaking panoramic view of thousands of trees from five surrounding counties.
And now for a brief science lesson so you understand the why behind the changing color of the leaves: photosynthesis. By constantly creating Chlorophyll, leaves stay green from spring through summer. When autumn arrives, Chlorophyll production stops causing the leaves to show their true colors – gold, red, orange and brown. We have the shorter days of fall to thank for providing these vivid tones. Your 5th grader can help explain this technical sounding yet fascinating process, but the bottom line is, get out there and enjoy the fall foliage for the few brief weeks it will be on display. You won’t be disappointed.
Love this article? Please share with family and friends. If you visit these places for fall foliage, tag us in your photos on Instagram @elementaryonnections